It’s exciting to think about new things and fresh beginnings.
Maybe it’s a new job or promotion. Perhaps you have found the love of your life or are expecting a baby.
For many people, as a new year approaches, there’s anticipation and renewed motivation to accomplish new goals and accomplish more than they have in the past.
Are you ready for God to take you to the next chapter of your life?
Are you excited to see how He can use you for His glory?
Let’s Pray: Dear Father, thank you so much for who you are. Help me learn more about You and help me to be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer. I ask you this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
The Next Chapter I am referring to is a movement of care.
The idea of expanding care to the community is not mine. It didn’t originate with me. It is in the Scripture. The early church had to learn how to expand care to their community.
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (NIV)
I want you to plant yourself in one of the seats at the Church of Corinth. The elders are now reading out loud Paul’s letter to them. You can almost hear Paul’s voice as the elders read it. Paul wanted them to know that even though the churches of Macedonia were poor, they still gave to the needy and impoverished. Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to share their gifts with a grateful heart.
Discover God’s grace.
To make the Next Chapter a reality, you must discover God’s grace.
I’ve learned in 40 years of walking with Jesus that I should not be too quick to discount opportunities because everything in front of me seems bleak. We are so quick to abstain from things because we get caught up in looking at them through our eyes. Paul tells us that the Macedonians did not say “no” to his request.
They did not discount themselves from the miracle that could show up. Why? Because they knew about God’s grace.
Do you know the meaning of grace? One of the most popular meanings of the word grace is unmerited favor. That means that you didn’t deserve favor, goodness or kindness, but God gave it to you anyways.
Grace is God’s empowering presence that enables you to be who God calls you to be.
In other words, grace helps you become what you need to become. Grace enables you to accomplish all the things that God desires of you.
It is what Moses experienced in the wilderness. He is taking care of his father-in-law’s sheep, and then all of a sudden there is a bush that catches on fire without being consumed. Out of the bush comes the voice of God telling Moses that He hears the cries of His children in Egypt. He told Moses that He wanted him to go and tell Pharoah to let His people go.
Can you even imagine what it must have felt like to be Moses? You have no power, authority, title or status, yet God is asking this huge request. What caused Moses to go to Egypt and be empowered to deliver over a million Jews from Egyptian slavery? Nothing other than the grace of God. As God puts big things in front of you, realize that you can’t do them with your strength—you need the grace of God to lead you.
Don’t discount yourself from His calling until you become aware of the grace of God.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” — 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
Grace is God’s enabling power.
It empowers you to be and to do. That is why teenager David was able to kill Goliath. It wasn’t just a slingshot, it was the grace of God that came upon David. It was the stone accompanied by grace that enabled David to slay the giant.
I want you to know that moving towards The Next Chapter care project may look humongous, but everything looks small when you step into the grace of God. Do not be discouraged. Do not rule yourself out. Let God demonstrate grace to you so you can have war stories about what God did through you.
I can imagine how Paul must have felt when he wrote the letter to Corinth and approached not just the Corinthians, but the Macedonians as well. These guys were in terrible poverty amidst a fierce trial of persecution. Paul asks them to give a gift to help impoverished believers in Jerusalem that they didn’t even know. He must have felt conflicted. How do I ask these people for something when they have needs
I have felt the way Paul felt.
There are some sermons I preach from a place of being conflicted.
With this particular message, I feel conflicted because I am teaching about what it means to give big gifts to the work of ministry during an economic famine for some.
I am conflicted because some may think it is thoughtless of me to ask people to sow a seed in this economy. The topic of sowing and reaping is from God, and if you only teach when things are good, then you’re saying that the Bible is only accurate during good times and not tough times.
I want you to know that divine principles work during economic upturns and downturns.
God’s word works every time.
We just need to know how to apply His word to our lives. Now, I resolve being conflicted with this point. Being conflicted is okay, but being cynical or close-minded is not.
Planting is a choice. Never let anybody take away your choice.
I am so thankful that the Macedonians did not allow Paul or anybody else to take away their choice from them. Never let anybody do that for you because if they do, they will limit your ability to experience God’s miraculous harvest when you plant in faith.
“Money stands between more people and their relationship to God than any other one thing.” — Author Unknown
The Next Chapter is not about money. It is about ministry. If you’re looking at money, then you’re looking at the wrong thing.
Do God’s will.
Doing God’s will is one of the high watermarks of a follower of Jesus. I know that you are an authentic and fully devoted follower of Jesus when you place doing God’s will as the high point of your life. I don’t care how difficult it may seem or how weird it may look, whatever God calls you to do, do it. Sometimes when you are doing the will of God, He won’t explain Himself.
I’m one of those people that usually needs every last one of my questions answered before I do anything, but I’ve learned over the years that when it comes to God, I can throw everything out the window and just trust Him.
When you recognize the value of doing God’s will, it is amazing. It means that you’re walking in a place of true submission to God. Some people believe that the will of God is optional. I look at those people with bitterness because you say you’re a follower of Jesus Christ and that you love the Lord, and yet you ignore His will.
There is a problem there. To be a Christ follower means that you live in the submission of His will for your life. Even if His will is crazy or different than what you want to do, you can be placed on a pedestal as a champion of God when you say: I am doing the will of God in my life.
I can assure you that they gave as much as they could, and even more than they could. Of their own free will they begged us and pleaded for the privilege of having a part in helping God’s people in Judea. It was more than we could have hoped for! First they gave themselves to the Lord; and then, by God’s will they gave themselves to us as well. 2 Corinthians 8:3-5 (GNT)
When I think about the Macedonians, I applaud them. Doing God’s will means you must first give yourself to the Lord.
You may ask, how do you give yourself to the Lord?
It is when you fully devote yourself to Him. It is when you tell Him that you will do whatever He calls or asks of you. When you get to that place with God and mean it, God will do amazing things through you.
The Macedonians didn’t look at their resources, they looked at the will of God. They wanted God to show them what to do with the opportunity presented to them.
“To live outside of God’s will puts you in danger; to live in His will makes us dangerous.” — Erwin McManus (Pastor & Author)
Would you pray this prayer with me? God, make me dangerous.
You are dangerous when you can do the will of God. The devil is afraid of you.
The Next Chapter is going to occur because of you demonstrating generosity. Paul wanted others to have the right perspective when it came to giving. Follow the lead of the Macedonians when it comes to being generous.
So I thought I should ask these brothers to go to you before we do. They will finish getting in order the generous gift you promised so it will be ready when we come. And it will be a generous gift—not one that you did not want to give. Remember this: The person who plants little will have a small harvest, but the person who plants a lot will have a big harvest. — 2 Corinthians 9:5-6 (NCV)
Paul told the Corinthians that they weren’t wasting money on giving to those in Jerusalem. He reminded them they were planting seeds for their future harvest. Paul wanted them to understand that generous sowing will reap a generous harvest. I want you to recognize that.
“People go through three conversions. The conversion of their head, their heart, and their pocketbook. Unfortunately, not all at the same time.” — Martin Luther (German Reformer & Theologian)
Generosity is not accidental. It is a planned and intentional process that requires steps.
Deliberate with God. What does this mean? Go into prayer and seek God’s leadership.
Discover God’s purpose. What is God saying to you for this season of your life?
Define a sense of sacrifice. It is never equal giving, but equal sacrifice.
Determine your giving potential. Everyone has a different potential.
Decide on a giving plan. Come up with ways to creatively give generously.
Again, generosity is not accidental. You have to be intentional about committing to giving.
I want to encourage you that God is up to something big, and He wants to use us. God is raising us up. Let us discover God’s grace, do God’s will and demonstrate our generosity to expand care to the community for the glory of God.
Let’s Pray: Dear Heavenly Father, I need you. Come into my heart, wash away my sins and change me. Help me to serve you all the days of my life, starting now. In Christ’s name, Amen.